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Reviews: Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat; the Standard London and more

22 July 2019 by
Reviews: Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat; the Standard London and more

Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat in London's Mayfair is reviewed by the Evening Standard's Fay Maschler

Whole coriander and cumin seeds pressed into spiced lamb short ribs are not the most palatable way of appreciating those spices. Saikyo (pale, Kyoto-origin) miso black cod is foolproof pleasure but the size of the piece of fish for £37 seems to be unnecessarily mean.

The best dishes of the lunch are Burmese crab masala with its inscrutable sonorous sauce and roti resembling shoe leather, an attribute that I read as authentic, and the skewer of pork belly glazed with Nikka whisky and yuzu mustard.

Standout dish of the items tried at the second meal is char siu dry-aged pork chop topped with cubes of fondant nashi pear. Vying for most disappointing are okra skewers and wok-fried greens, a travesty of what almost any Cantonese restaurants can do better. A bit of a find, as it costs only £4, is crispy tofu and avocado bao. We also enjoy the dry, cedar-y, Kiku-Masamune Junmai Taru Sake at a reasonable £48 for 720ml, which is poured with due ceremony.

Score: 2/5


The Woodsman
The Woodsman

The Times' Giles Coren discovers "top class" venison at the Woodsman in Stratford-upon-Avon

There was good business being done on a Wednesday lunchtime, which is great to see out here, and after telling us his life story the charming Italian waiter brought us a really, really good, warm, supple crab tart accessorised with brown shrimp and cubes of cool, limpid cucumber and a plate of honey-cured "chalk stream" trout rendered in translucent discs of sweet fillet, with a little bit of gentle potato salad and peeled curls of radish and asparagus and a tangle of watercress.

Fallow deer, local but probably not killed in nearby Charlecote Park, where the young Shakespeare was done for poaching (which Sara pointed out to me on the drive from Leamington), was served as a pavé, which is to say a trimmed rump, sliced thinly, dark brown at the edges but pink within, tender as anything, full of flavour, with a beef marrow bone, buttery mash and a peppercorn sauce. Top class.

A sort of Barnsley chop of muntjac was a little tougher and less thrilling but its accompanying square of slow-cooked shoulder made up for that. Two grilled chicken thighs on mashed corn and broad beans was a decent non-game option. I liked the gravy-drenched dirty mash, the skillet of peas and radishes, regretted the lack of time and personnel for the big sharing dishes of Hereford beef and roe deer shoulder and ate a couple of perfectly decent puddings.

Price: £100 for two. Score: 7/10


Kensington Arms
Kensington Arms

The Kensington Arms in Bristol wins Grace Dent's heart, she writes in the Guardian

Nobody on MasterChef: The Professionals ever says, "Today, I've cooked a leek and jersey royal potato soup, and served it with fresh sourdough and good salted butter", but by God, sometimes I wish they would…

Joyously, at the Kenny, with Luke Hawkins (ex Pony & Trap) at the helm, the single-sheet Sunday lunch menu begins with precisely this straightforward leek-and-spud pottage. It is velvety, fragrant and balm-like. It reminds me of the folly of how Brits have been made to feel sheepish over recent decades about choosing soup as a starter, as if it's only one step up from that other classic 1970s opening act, "a glass of pasteurised orange juice". The Kenny has the soup to change all of that.

I found my own nirvana in a heavenly sweet potato and chestnut wellington: soft, sweet, nutty and perfectly seasoned, with glorious pastry. I have tasted some beastly vegetarian wellingtons in my time, but this one restored my faith.

Price: About £30 a head for three courses Á la carte; set weekday lunch £12 for two courses, £15 for three; set Sunday lunch £22 for two courses, £26 for three, all plus drinks and service. Score: food: 8/10; service: 8/10; atmosphere: 8/10


Flavours are elegant rather than brash at the Dumpling Tree in Cambridge, says Tom Parker Bowles in the Mail on Sunday

Cheese first, a rarity in China, but, thanks to a heavy Mongolian influence, a staple here. Pan-fried and golden, rubing is made from goats' milk. But the flavour is so light and subtle, like halloumi after a year at Swiss finishing school, that I don't detect even the merest grunt of the farmyard floor. Dragged through a mixture of chilli oil and vinegar, it's a revelation.

Chewy dried beef comes with fruity, chewy dried chillies, a dish of discreet depth, while Mongolian-style steamed dumplings are robustly chewy. Heartily seasoned too. Tilapia wallows in a dark and dangerously scarlet chilli oil, with whole branches of Sichuan pepper, and still more of those dried chillies. This is all about sly heat, though, rather than full-frontal assault.

Flavours that reach their pinnacle in the famed 'Crossing the Bridge noodles', where a bowl of boiling chicken stock - clean and astonishingly delicate - is set down before us. Alongside slippery fresh-made noodles, beautifully taut and bouncy. And dried lily flower, slices of Yunnan ham, pickled mushrooms, salty preserved vegetables, raw prawns, squid and quail's egg. So a hotpot of sorts, but miles removed from the murky, brow-beading morass of its more famous Sichuan cousin. Again, there's an essential purity to the dish, which hints and whispers rather than swaggers and roars.

Price: About £20 per head. Score: 4/5


levan
levan

When it's good, Levan in London's Peckham is really good, writes Ed Cummings in the Independent

The menu is longer than you'd expect, with snacks and sharing plates and larger sharing mains and cheese and desserts, all priced between £6.50 and £18.50, a mixture of the comforting, like the girolle, pea and goats' curd tortelli, with the somewhat unexpected, like lamb sweetbreads with radish, sorrel and soy caramel. For £41 they do a "chef's menu" of five sharing courses, which we went for.

A piece of pert trout, skin crisped but flesh all translucent pink and orange, draped with strands of monks beard and wild fennel; charred lettuce sprinkled with grapefruit and crushed pistachios; a magnificently sweet and sticky nectarine tarte tatin: these are worth the visit on their own.

Where things went off course it was mainly through fussiness. A plate of tomatoes swam in a gratuitous ponzu and miso dressing. A blameless scallop was sacrificed to pool of XO sauce.

Price: Just under £70 each


Gold Notting Hill - First Floor - please credit Ingrid Rasmussen
Gold Notting Hill - First Floor - please credit Ingrid Rasmussen

Gold in London's Notting Hill is "a whole lot better than it needs to be", writes Marina O'Loughlin in the Sunday Times

I'm still sad that we hardly managed to dent a bowlful of excellent purple potatoes, smashed and roasted till smoky and crisp in parts, fluffy in others, topped with a hugely successful "caraway sauerkraut slaw". (How this differs from actual sauerkraut eludes me, but it's a gorgeous foil to the spuds.)

Moderately successful plate follows rather more successful plate: chickpea pancake is less creamy farinata and more padded manila envelope, but its speck and stracciatella are both excellent quality. Sea bass carpaccio is very good: pristine fish, sparky dressing of chilli, marjoram and datterini tomatoes, flattened so they leach their sweet juices. There's some beautiful pasta-making going on with the rabbit tortelloni in porcini butter - slender, lithe and elastic, but the meat is a little overprocessed. New season's peas with roasted Tropea onions - what, not wood-roasted? - are longer cooked, in the Florentine way and lovely, simple things, the pink Italian onions almost treacly.

Price: For two, including 12.5% service charge £133


Le-Pont-De-La-Tour-August-2018-20-1400x933
Le-Pont-De-La-Tour-August-2018-20-1400x933

The bill felt "notably high" for the Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa while dining at Le Pont de la Tour in London's Tower Bridge

First from the concise menu (all fruits de mer and chateaubriand) came my wife's beetroot and kale tart; a high bale of fresh greens hiding cubes of softened beet, a dribble of tahini-yogurt dressing and quite a stiff, arid dish of pastry. Madeleine was quite into it. But coupled with my heirloom tomato, compressed watermelon, feta and anchovy salad ­- a weird seventies dinner party collision of fruit sweetness, intense saline and the briny roughness of some malt vinegar-steeped strawberries - it felt endemic of a mild disdain for vegetarian options that I suppose you could say is authentically French.

My Dover sole (though priced at a quite mad £40) was much better; a lusciously flaking, beautifully cooked piece of fish, skilfully excised from the bone tableside and heavily imbued with the barbecued musk of the grill. There was a griddle-scorched half native lobster as well, garlicky, chilli-flecked and coming away in wibbling hunks. Sides - a little pot of fries, minted new potatoes and snapping, butter-slopped green beans - maintained the mood of aggressive adequacy.

Sticky crÁªpes Suzette and a vanilla-rammed crème brÁ»lée with mini madeleines (detectably made a little while ago) brought us to a decidedly earthbound finale.

Price: £188.50. Score: ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5


Martha's Soho
Martha's Soho

Martha's in London's Soho is hit and miss, writes Jay Rayner in The Observer

The waiter gets the order right and some of the food is great and some is calamitous. Crab croquettes are nothing of the sort. They're much better than that. There is no supporting creamy medium like a béchamel. They are almost entirely fresh crab, with lots of chilli, which is exactly what you want. Rings of calamari, by contrast, are rubbery, bouncy tooth-flossers from which the breadcrumb coating sloughs off, as if it's the skin of a snake that has places to be. An iceberg wedge with blue cheese and bacon is a reminder that this much maligned lettuce still has a role in our lives.

Main courses are equally hit and miss. The hit is the New York Strip, a seared sirloin steak served the right side of both pink and Old Testament bible thick. It comes with a creamy peppercorn sauce which appears to have been completely blitzed. There are no peppercorns. Instead there is a massive hit of white pepper. It's astringent and weirdly compelling. Unlike the cauliflower risotto, which is a salty, acrid mess of failed vegetal matter. As I taste it, I can hear the slap it's going to make as the uneaten remains hit the black bin bag in the kitchen.

Price: starters £7.50-£12; main courses £10-£28; wines from £26


HOTELS

Lizzie Frainier of The Telegraphsays the fun-loving Standard hotel is a fabulous new addition to the London hotel scene

The exterior is a classic example of a brutalist building - only the pop of colour from the red bubble lift drawing the eye to the glass extension on top alludes to the stylish vibe courtesy of Shawn Hausman Design within. Take one step into the lobby however and you're firmly in the playful Seventies, a nod to the building's heritage as part of Camden Town Hall. Everywhere you look there are geometric shapes galore, potted plants, colourful retro tiles, quirky lights and leather sofas for sinking into. There are even shag-pile rugs lining the walls. In a word (well, two): groovy, baby.

Service is laid-back and friendly. The ground floor is largely open-plan, with restaurant Isla, its terrace and lobby lounge blending into one social space, and bar-restaurant Double Standard round the corner. The lounge comes complete with a DJ booth that hosts regular shindigs and a library of expertly curated books, which run the gamut from 'Despair' (read: global warming tomes) to 'Adult Relationships'. There's a gym downstairs, and spin bikes can be added to some rooms. The real boon will come next summer when the rooftop terrace opens.

Price: Doubles from £199. Breakfast dishes £3.50-16. Score: 9/10


Ellie Ross of The Times praises the stellar beachfront location and great food at the Beach at Bude in Cornwall, but thinks the room decor could be spiced up

Sitting above Summerleaze Beach, the Beach at Bude is perfectly positioned for sea lovers, from surfers to those wishing simply to watch the sunset from the terrace with a martini. Inside, the lively bar is at the heart of the hotel, with its retro aviation chairs and mustard-yellow Chesterfield sofas. The recent addition of a brace of two-bedroom suites offers more flexibility for guests, and a new head chef is revamping the food.

[The bedrooms are] bright and spacious, although lacking character. All 17 main rooms share the same style, with a neutral scheme. Coral cushions provide a subtle splash of colour. Our room (6) had a lovely bay window looking out towards the sea, but there were no curtains, only shutters. The new suites are contemporary and ideal for families (one is self-catering).

Jamie Coleman - a former MasterChef contestant who has worked under Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines - joined as head chef in January and the food he sends out is superb. My smoked haddock fishcake (£7) was divine and the chicken kiev (£15) was perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. Little wonder the glass-fronted restaurant and bar is popular with locals.

Price: B&B doubles cost from £125 a night. Score: 8/10

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